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WanderingTree


Nov 18, 2009, 12:12 PM

Post #551 of 709 (7549 views)
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Re: [ericweinstein] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd avoid courier if possible. It's a fairly antiquated typeface.

As far as double spacing goes, there are rare exceptions for fiction esp. if you are applying to experimental programs like Brown, Notre Dame, Illinois etc. and the physical form/structure of your story reflects the telling of it.


moomoocow42


Nov 18, 2009, 12:51 PM

Post #552 of 709 (7536 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
if you are applying to experimental programs like Brown, Notre Dame, Illinois etc. and the physical form/structure of your story reflects the telling of it.

I can only speak for the Fiction side of things at Illinois, but to my knowledge, I don't know if we're necessarily an "experimental" program. I think this perception may stem from our lit mag, 9th Letter, and it's certainly true that the aesthetic of the magazine skews experimental, but the aesthetic choices made for the magazine are quite different from what's being produced inside the program. I don't want to go down the stereotypical program-touting path, and say that everyone's writing is wildly different from each other's, but it's really true in our case! We have stuff ranging from hyper-realistic, domestic life stories to extremely experimental pieces. Hell, within my own class of three, we all write about very different subjects and in very different writing styles. Just wanted to throw that out there.


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


StellaBella


Nov 18, 2009, 2:34 PM

Post #553 of 709 (7509 views)
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Re: [moomoocow42] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the input, everyone. I'm applying to Minnesota and their website asks for a brief description of your writing background along with the writing sample. I'm assuming this is just an overview of what I've published, writing jobs I've held, etc? I mean, I don't think they want to know about journals I kept in the 3rd grade?

Has anyone else written one of those before?


StellaBella


Nov 19, 2009, 9:42 AM

Post #554 of 709 (7456 views)
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Re: [StellaBella] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Ok all, I promise this is the last question here. Thanks for your help. Should I avoid submitting a previously published piece? I think it's some of my best work, but I'm not sure if they're going to want to see works in progress instead of things that have been previously published.

Massive thanks.


bighark


Nov 19, 2009, 11:03 AM

Post #555 of 709 (7441 views)
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Re: [StellaBella] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't over-think this one. There are no prejudices against published work in the application process. By all means, send the published piece.


StellaBella


Nov 19, 2009, 11:17 AM

Post #556 of 709 (7439 views)
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Re: [bighark] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks bighark. I am in the final stages here, just about to send everything off, and all of a sudden I'm in that wait-a-minute-second-guess-it-all mode. ARG! My two samples are quite different. Hopefully they'll read them both. I need to get that packet in the mail and be done with it already so I can cook some lasagna in peace.


Woon


Nov 19, 2009, 12:15 PM

Post #557 of 709 (7424 views)
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Re: [StellaBella] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Lasagna comes first, me thinks.


greenpenquills


Nov 19, 2009, 7:44 PM

Post #558 of 709 (7364 views)
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Re: [StellaBella] writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

StellaBella-

I'm applying in nonfiction as well. I plan on submitting three essays (which total around 31 pgs.) to all my schools except for UNM, which only wants 15-20. I'll either send them one or two. All of my pieces are memoir, though I suppose one could also be considered travel writing. I'm submitting what I (and others) consider to be my best work. That's the recommendation I've always heard, and you can tailor your SOP around the strengths and weaknesses of your best work. I wouldn't necessarily submit pieces that exemplify your weaknesses, if that's what you mean. I'm sure they'll take your word for it :-P


kbritten

e-mail user

Nov 30, 2009, 5:11 PM

Post #559 of 709 (7156 views)
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Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

How are y'all approaching your writing sample? I feel like I'm being too much of a perfectionist about mine, resulting in a huge delay in the process. I have been working on my three stories since August, rewriting and restructuring them over and over again, workshopping them multiple times.

I realize that this is not the easiest question to answer, since it's all subjective, but when do you accept that a story is finished? I keep telling myself that admissions committees are looking for promise, not perfection, but I'm spending a lot of money on this and want to send my best work. Just curious about your own experiences...


jaywalke


Dec 1, 2009, 12:43 AM

Post #560 of 709 (7074 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
when do you accept that a story is finished?


"When I get paid for it." --Pinckney Benedict


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 1, 2009, 12:45 AM

Post #561 of 709 (7073 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm spending far too much time on mine as well. I'm submitting two pieces--one a short story, the other a novel excerpt. I feel absolutely 'done' with the former. I sent it to 3 friends who gave some minor feedback and I made some small changes as per their suggestions. However, I feel that the ending is solid and I've tied up all the loose ends... also, I like the title. It always aggravates me if I don't find a suitable title.

With that said, the novel excerpt is taking over my life. I've been switching everything around and rewriting the scenes so they fit in this new order after deliberating what would be the most 'complete' 20-30 pgs to send and flipping around chapters to achieve this. I've also workshopped this piece numerous times, but my work is rather 'different' (not avant-garde/experimental, but premise-wise) and unfortunately I find that the people in my class are so consumed by this that they disregard many of the glaring flaws.

But really, I don't even consider this sort of revising 'perfectionism.' It's just not complete, and I would be embarrassed if I sent it in as-is. I'm working on refining dialogue, stripping out mundane passages, and fact-checking to make sure all my references are correct.

It's a good thing I'm pressure-prompted. I'm giving myself until December 7th.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

(This post was edited by Zuleika Dobson on Dec 1, 2009, 12:47 AM)


Pedro Eler


Dec 1, 2009, 8:33 AM

Post #562 of 709 (7004 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I absolutely think that finding a great title is essential! I can only say I`m done with a story when I am happy with the title.

If you are struggling with a story, the best thing to do is to back away, spend a couple of weeks not thinking about it, and then approach it again with a new and clearer point of view. But of course that this will require time. But ultimately you have to feel good about the story, but keep in mind that feeling completely happy with it almost never happens.

So if you get to a point of great stress and disturbance, just let go and call it quits!

That is what I do... I say DONE, and move on to something else. After a while, you start to change the story so much that instead of getting better it gets worse and worse.


greenpenquills


Dec 9, 2009, 2:55 AM

Post #563 of 709 (6811 views)
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Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Quick question for fiction and nonfiction applicants: are you indenting the first paragraph of each section of your stories/essays? I noticed in a lot books and magazines they don't indent the first line of a chapter/section, so I used that formatting style to differentiate the sections within my essays, but I don't want the committee to be confused by it. I know there aren't any hard and fast rules, but I don't want to stick out or for them to think I made a formatting mistake. Thoughts on this?


matthew1980


Dec 11, 2009, 4:38 PM

Post #564 of 709 (6682 views)
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Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got another formatting question if anyone's game. While digging through different manuscript guidelines online (some for formatting theses, some short stories), I saw several that say the double-spacing in Word is a bit too spacious and "real" double spacing can be had by formatting the line spacing to "exactly" and "24 point." (ie double the 12-point font I'm using; makes sense).

I'm wondering about this minutiae because I'm procrastinating a bit now that I've got to trim down my stories for schools that request shorter writing samples. I printed a copy in both formats and "exactly 24" saves me about 4 pages on a 30pp sample (which means I might not have to cut any text) and doesn't appear very crowded compared to the regular Word double-spacing (you can only tell, and not by much, when you hold the two versions up to a light). Just thought I'd ask if I should try the exactly 24 approach. I'd hate for a committee to think I'm being sneaky about guidelines, so I'll probably stick to the Word's regular double-spacing and make the cuts.

And what do people think is a reasonable length over the suggested guidelines, if any? The schools I'm wondering about are UVa (which is clear about absolutely nothing over 30), Virginia Tech (says 20-25pp. would 30 be too much?) and Louisiana State (says 20pp., I'm assuming I've got to get down to at most 25 or so.)

Thanks and good luck to everyone.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2009, 5:08 PM

Post #565 of 709 (6671 views)
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Re: [matthew1980] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't know about academic programs, but for submission, use standard double-spacing. You'd be surprised at what an editor can spot, and find irritating. An inability to follow simple rules is also not endearing to some people.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 11, 2009, 10:57 PM

Post #566 of 709 (6625 views)
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Re: [matthew1980] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm gonna have problems with this as well. The maximum manuscript length for schools I'm applying to range anywhere from 20 pages to 80 pages, so obviously I won't be submitting the same material to each one. Thus, I'm going to have to trim significantly for those on the lower end of the scale. I don't going over the limit is a good idea ever--you risk pissing off the committee. I'll probably end up taking out a few paragraphs in the middle of my novel excerpt and possibly adding in an ed's note.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


orthetiger


Dec 12, 2009, 5:59 PM

Post #567 of 709 (6579 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I really wouldn't go over a page limit by more than a page. It kind of says "Hey, I know you asked for 20 pages, but I'm brilliant, so here's 25." It's much more acceptable to send less. If an adcom is reading 200 applications, and each one goes over by 5 pages, they're reading 1000 extra pages. They have limits for a reason... I agree it's difficult to tailor a sample to so many different requirements, but it's part of the process. I would make sure to follow instructions... but 1-2 pages might be excusable. It's always quality over quantity anyway, so you don't need those extra pages to prove yourself.


__________



Dec 12, 2009, 8:17 PM

Post #568 of 709 (6545 views)
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Re: [orthetiger] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Except they're really not reading all those pages. I imagine they set most aside after the first double-spaced page.


six five four three two one 0 ->


orthetiger


Dec 12, 2009, 8:47 PM

Post #569 of 709 (6537 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, that's probably true, but I still think it's inconsiderate to go over the limit. We all like to think, of course, that our writing samples are not those that are thrown to the side so quickly.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 13, 2009, 2:38 PM

Post #570 of 709 (6467 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

In that case, I'll pray to the literary gods for mine to be either read in its entirety or thrown with great force.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


WanderingTree


Dec 13, 2009, 4:36 PM

Post #571 of 709 (6440 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Call me an optimist, but I hope they read at least 5 manuscript pages. After all, we're paying for these apps!


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 13, 2009, 6:07 PM

Post #572 of 709 (6421 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

Haven't been able to find out the answer anywhere... so maybe someone here knows. How do you format action by X when it cuts through speech by Y? (Note: the lame scene below is not an excerpt from my submission.)

Which of these examples is correct?

Quote
(indent) "I need a drink right now! My deadline is tomorrow!" shouted Brian. He pounded the bar with his fist.

The bartender handed him a glass of beer.

(indent) "And I haven't even finished formatting my submissions," Brian muttered.


OR

Quote
(indent) "I need a drink right now! My deadline is tomorrow!" shouted Brian. He pounded the bar with his fist.

(indent) The bartender handed him a glass of beer.

(indent) "And I haven't even finished formatting my submissions," Brian muttered.


OR

Quote
"I need a drink right now! My deadline is tomorrow!" shouted Brian. He pounded the bar with his fist. The bartender handed him a glass of beer. "And I haven't even finished formatting my submissions," Brian muttered.



"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

(This post was edited by Zuleika Dobson on Dec 13, 2009, 6:08 PM)


rue721


Dec 13, 2009, 6:29 PM

Post #573 of 709 (6413 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's the last one:

"I need a drink right now! My deadline is tomorrow!" shouted Brian. He pounded the bar with his fist. The bartender handed him a glass of beer. "And I haven't even finished formatting my submissions," Brian muttered.

That's how I'm formatting my stories, anyway :).

My reasoning is:

1. I only return/indent when a *new* person starts speaking (and even that is sometimes not a new paragraph, in a books. I noticed that lots of different people speak in the same paragraph throughout Mary McCarthy's Birds of America, for example). (This is the most important reason, lol).

2. "He" = Brian all the way through, so confusion isn't an issue.

3. The whole paragraph centers on Brian--the bartender is only incidental. Therefore, it seems like giving the bartender his own paragraph to complete an action gives his action WAY more emphasis than it deserves.


__________



Dec 13, 2009, 7:30 PM

Post #574 of 709 (6388 views)
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Re: [rue721] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

The last two examples are correct. (Or that's how they format novels).

If you're going to begin a new paragraph, you indent. Right?

The other is just an aesthetic choice. Some creative writing books warn against having two characters doing things in the same dialogue chunk...but many famous writers do it.


six five four three two one 0 ->


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 13, 2009, 7:40 PM

Post #575 of 709 (6382 views)
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Re: [rue721] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I've seen it done all three ways, which is why this was so confusing. But thanks, both of you!


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

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